Unleash the miraculous power of Indian folklore in modern advertising

एक था राजा एक थी रानी दोनों मर गए खत्म कहानी। (There was once a king and a queen; both died, and the story is over.) This might have been invented when, as kids, we implored our dadi nani to narrate a bedtime story, and they were too tired to delve into their mythical creative world. Grandmother’s tales always fascinated each one of us as they touched the realm of imagination, filled with humans who could fly, animals who could talk, and fairies who would grant our wishes! But have you ever thought that those innocent-sounding bedtime stories narrated by our grandparents carry far more weight than merely teaching moral lessons? Such bedtime stories, folksongs, riddles, legends, and myths have always been part of the collective memories of common people; known as folklore.

Long before the rise of narrative-driven advertising, common people used folklore to communicate their messages to their target audience with profound engagement. For instance, Meghalaya’s “law kyntang” tribal folklore revered sacred groves as dwelling places of their ancestral spirits. These folklores prohibited the felling of trees, advocating biodiversity conservation where conventional “Save environment” advertising campaigns faltered.

Prior to the rise of over-the-top, unrelatable “Feminist” series dominated streaming platforms, ordinary women were already making waves in society through the power of their folk songs when they were not even allowed to speak. Read the lines of a famous Haryanavi folksong,known as Jakari song:

“बीरा क बुझेगा मेरी, म सु कर्मा की माड़ी रे, बीरा तू रे हुआ था,
जब बांटी थी मिठाई रे, बीरा म रे हुई थी, जब मायड़ भी रोई थी रे,

It highlights the discrimination faced by females as a child, and patriarchal domination and conveys women’s discontent by singing “How would you understand my plight, dear brother? You were celebrated with sweets when you were born, but even the mother cried when I was born. They weren’t just narratives but catalysts for social change, accessible to all without needing intellectual status (pun intended).

Now let’s talk about the much-loved “Panchatantra”; the stories filled with talking monkeys to shrewd jackals. Beyond its teachings, the origin story of the Panchatantra offers countless captivating

Recent successes like the film “Kantara” illustrate the enduring appeal of folklore. By weaving demi-gods, demons, and mythical characters into its narrative, the film tapped into India’s collective cultural memory, resonating deeply with audiences.

Despite folklore’s historical efficacy in engaging audiences, modern advertising struggles to replicate this deep connection.
Many brands in India invest heavily in creating glossy, aspirational campaigns that showcase luxury and extravagance, even when such themes may not align with the realities and values of their target audience. This disconnect is leading result in high visibility but low engagement. Additionally, disinterested audiences resort to ad blockers, further diminishing potential reach and engagement.

The lessons of folklore are clear: effective communication transcends mere messages—it embraces cultural resonance and community connection. By rediscovering and leveraging these ancient storytelling traditions, modern advertisers can create campaigns that not only capture attention but also foster lasting impact and engagement. It is time to explore the wisdom of Panchatantra, Jataka tales, legends, fairytales, and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Dive into tribal folklore to enrich creativity in your advertisements. Even use the wisdom of your dadis and nanies; talk to them about witty proverbs, idioms, or even taboos of old times who knows you strike the correct narrative for your brand story.

Mention below your favorite mythological character.

Image copyright @Dhiren Goswami-Samaguri Satra (do not copy)

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